Tag Archive for sukkot

Our heavenly Sukkah

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s Yonatan Zweig

A great talmid chacham once said, that if one is sitting in the sukkah and is uncomfortable due to inclement weather, yet pushes aside his discomfort and is glad of the opportunity to perform a mitzvah, he has reached a spiritual height.
“You shall dwell in booths for seven days… so that future generations will know that I caused the children of Israel to dwell in booths when I took them from the land of Egypt”(Vayikra 23:42-43). The Rabbis of the Talmud (Sukkah 11b) debate whether our Sukkot commemorate the actual booths the Jews lived in during their stay in the desert or the anannei hakavod (clouds of glory), that directed and protected the Jewish people during their march to the land of Israel. Both meanings stem from the root סכה- to cover, as both clouds and booths provide shade and covering from the sun. Interestingly enough, the accepted ruling is that our sukkot is a commemoration of the anannei hakavod. Thus, when we dwell in the sukkah, we must keep in mind not so much the flimsy huts we lived in, as the protecting and guiding hand of Hashem.
In the Kiddush we make at home, as well as in the special prayers we add for the holiday during services at the synagogue, the Festival of Sukkot is referred to “the Time of our Joy”. Why is Sukkot considered more a time of joy than Passover or Shavuot? After all, even greater and more significant miracles occurred on those holidays – on Passover we witnessed the Ten Plagues and the Splitting of the Sea and on Shavuot we experienced Divine Revelation when we received the Torah at Mount Sinai – yet only Sukkot is called “the Time of our Joy.” Why?
Furthermore, we do not use the dates produced by the palm in the performance of the mitzva, rather the branch of the tree, which is tasteless. All the same, the lulav is referred to by our sages, as having taste. Why is this so?
Citing the Maharil, the Ramah teaches that we should begin building a sukkah as soon as Yom Kippur concludes, thereby moving immediately from the fulfillment of one mitzva to the fulfillment of another. Why must we move immediately to the mitzva of sukkah, rather than charity, Torah study or another mitzva?
The Talmud derives the laws pertaining to the construction of the sukkah from the clouds which arose from the Garden of Eden. What is the connection between the Garden of Eden and the sukkah?
The Talmud relates that when the children of Israel received the Torah on Shavuot, they reached the level of Adam prior to his sin in the Garden of Eden. However, when they committed the sin of the Golden Calf, the children of Israel returned to the level of Adam after he was banished from the Garden, for having eaten from the Tree of Knowledge. On Yom Kippur, Bnei Yisroel received atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf, and they should have gone into Eretz Yisrael, built the Beis Hamikdash, and once again attained that special closeness with G-d. However, instead they committed the sin of the spies, which resulted in the death of that entire generation.
Sukkot represents the time period when, after having received atonement on Yom Kippur, we enter the Garden of Eden, i.e. the sukkah. This is the reason why the construction and decor of the sukkah, as well as the four species which we are commanded to take in it, are made to resemble a garden. Immediately after Yom Kippur we are preoccupied with building the sukkah, displaying our desire to attain an elevated level of closeness with G-d, by joining him in the Garden of Eden.
The Midrash teaches that one of the characteristics of the Garden of Eden, was that the bark of its fruit trees tasted like their fruits. Taking the branch of the palm tree to represent the taste of dates, is reflective of the notion that we are recreating our existence in the Garden of Eden.
At the center of the splendid, Sukkot festivities, was the Simchas Beis Hasho’evah, the celebration of the drawing of the water for the nisuch hamayim, the water libation on the altar, in the Beis Hamikdash. The Talmud draws a vivid picture of the singing and dancing that accompanied this ritual. It even tells of great sages juggling and leaping about like young acrobats. Indeed, the Talmud assures us that “whoever did not witness the Simchas Beis Hasho’evah has never seen true joy in his life.”
But what was so remarkable about the ritual of the drawing of the water? What made it the most powerful stimulus to joy imaginable?
The commentators explain that the Hebrew word for joy, simchah, is related to the word for erasing, machah. Joy is not something that must be generated. It is our natural state. Nevertheless, the pain, sorrows and disappointments of life overlay and obscure our natural joyousness. When we erase these impediments to our happiness, we achieve true joy by default.
Still, why indeed is joy our natural state? Because joy is an expression of a perfect existence, of fulfillment to the highest degree possible. The essence of a person is the immortal soul, the neshamah, our spark of the Divine. When our souls cleave completely to their Source and Creator, we are in a state of perfect existence, and we experience joy. However, when our sins and misdeeds come between our souls and their Divine Source, we feel the anguish of estrangement and our joy is extinguished.
Life takes its toll on us and all of its headaches become magnified, far out of proportion to their true significance. Therefore, in order to achieve true and perfect joy, we must erase the taint from our souls so that they can again cleave perfectly to the Creator. Only then can we achieve fulfillment and the joy that results from it.
On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we cleanse and purify our souls. On Sukkot, we are finally capable of cleaving to the Creator and achieving true joy. The water libation symbolized this concept. Water has the property of absolute adaptability. It can assume any shape or form so perfectly, that no gaps are left unfilled. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan z’l teaches how important water is. He begins by saying, in order for the world to exist, both liquids and solids are needed. Water’s characteristic is such, that it involves change; it never stays in one place. Solids on the other hand, are the opposite; they remain in an ever stagnant state. If the world would exist with just solids, there would be no movement at all in the world. However, if there were only liquids, although there is the capability of change, it would not be able to hold any shape or form and would exist unstably. Therefore, solids need liquids and liquids needs solids in order for life to exist. In the world we live in, there is constant change, but general identity is still retained. People change physically, spiritually and otherwise, yet remain the same individuals. This is because of the co-existence of solids and liquids. No water is mentioned in regard to death, because water represents change; change is life; change is development; development is fulfilling G-d’s purpose. The ritual of pouring the water over the altar in the Beis Hamikdash, therefore, symbolizes the perfect and absolute attachment which the Jewish people have attained with their Creator, through their prayers and repentance during the High Holidays. And that perfect attachment leads to perfect joy.
There was a stream coming out from Gan Eden and flowing throughout the world. This is the reason the Torah ascribes such importance to mikvah. After a woman immerses herself in purified water, she has the connection with Gan Eden and is therefore more susceptible for child bearing.
The Sukkah holiday is symbolic of Gan Eden and therefore, one can attain a joy during Sukkot, like no other. Interestingly, there is a
reference in the Torah connecting Sukkot and Yaacov. “Yaacov traveled to Sukkot” (33:17). How appropriate is that, considering it was Yaacov who took responsibility to perform both physical and spiritual maintenance of the world. Eisav’s deeds disqualified him and dissolved his potential partnership with Yaacov. By masquerading like Eisav, Yaacov received Eisav’s blessing after his father smelled Gan Eden on Yaacov’s clothing.
The spiritual component of Sukkah is powerful and allows us to achieve a taste of Gan Eden. Perhaps that is the reason I felt such appreciation and believed that the sukkah is the place to be, no matter how cold it is outside. Gan Eden has the right climate control.

The Mechanics of miracles-Succot edition

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s Noach Isaac Oelbaum, Asher Hertzberg, Baruch Dopelt, Rachamim Shaulov and Dr. Abba Goldman and Esther Matmon
Although Succot is a beautiful holiday, it does require much work. Building the Sukkah, granted it’s fun, takes up lots of time. The same can be said about buying the Lulav and Etrog set, it impinges on our really heavy schedule. Waving those pointy lulavs with an occasional dart can be painful and burdensome, especially having to be careful not to break the delicate “pitom” on the small etrog.  Furthermore having to go out to the sukkah every time one wants to snack, a small cookie, (mezonot) is really uncomfortable. It’s similar to going out to the corner neighborhood store by car to get a paper only to have to walk a half a block to get a parking stub from the mini meters. Might as well not eat the cookie or get the paper.  Moreover, it’s not easy to sit in uncomfortable climate and change our lifestyle. It’s nice, perhaps for one or two outings, a change of scenery takes out the boredom in our HO HUM life, however seven days!! That’s a lot of meals where plates going back and forth from inside the house. Nevertheless G-d said to perform the commandment of sitting in the Succah therefore we dutifully oblige.
It’s interesting that Sukkot follows the Yamim Noraim – days of awe, where we just came out apologizing profusely and asking G-d to wipe out the bad decree, Amein! Perhaps Succot with all its tasks and requirements is one last test. We were knocking our hearts with our fists and cried “we’ll gravitate to you, G-d!!  We won’t sin anymore; we’ll change”. Is that what we said not too long ago?   Well, here is a shot to prove your worth, as they say. Here is an opportunity to put your trust in G-d. Here is a chance to put your money where your mouth is. Here is an opportunity to show we really meant what we said. Hey!! You mean business….don’t you? Here is a chance to weather the uncomfortable environment and have the right feelings.
  Many Jews open a letter, an email with the word BH, or SIYATA D’SHMAYA – with G-d’s help on top of the page. It’s a Jewish heading. It really is a loaded statement. In other words, by writing BH, we’re implying G-d’s running the show. How many of us believe that?
  One of the major aspects of “with G-d’s help” is we participate in the help. “Siyata” can also mean “helper of G-d”. We learned about “Effort”, in Judaism 101. We have to make an effort in all our life endeavors. We can’t just sit pat and wait for G-d to deliver at our door step money, the Porsche or the mail order bride. We have to use our optimal ability to move up in life, in every aspect of this wonderful glorious world whether spiritual and/or materialistic. Here we take effort to a different crazy level. We were under the notion that Siyata d’shmaya was a solo act. The idea was “we are waiting for G-d Who is going to help”. However, if we participate, do an extra part then the miracle will take effect. Do you believe in miracles?
We see this occur from the following stories:

****The Chafetz Chaim – Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, (1839-1933), was one of the greatest Rabbis in our illustrious Jewish history. His books, commentary on Jewish law (Mishna Brurah) as well as his books where his profound words and emphasis on lashon hara (guard your tongue) have been unprecedented and has changed many lives.
The Chafetz Chaim was quite revered in his time and when he fell extremely ill at the age of eighty eight in the year 1929 there was an outcry and concern for his wellbeing. Tehilim was recited throughout the Jewish world. After all, he was considered one of the prominent Rabbis of the generation and well needed for his teachings and advice to the Jewish populous.
 There was one young man Mordechai who was particularly taken by the Chafetz Chaim’s illness. He was the son of the prominent Rosh Yeshiva – Moshe Londinsky and for a brief period was one of the Chafetz Chaim’s personal secretaries. One night, at the study hall, being in a somber state, he decided to recite the entire Tehilim  for the z’chut of the refuah shelema of his Rav. As the dawn hour was approaching, he got up from his seat, after finishing Tehilim, and went up to the eichal – Aron Hakodesh to put in his own personal prayer. As he grabbed the parochet (the velvety cover curtain) and brought it close to his eyes, he cried out to G-d “the world needs the Chafetz Chaim!!” “I’m a young student that will probably not come close to the greatness of such a holy man. As a matter of fact”, He said, “I’m willing to give up 5 years of my life so that the Chafetz Chaim can live. He’ll probably be more productive in those five years than I will be my entire life”. This is how deeply the young man felt. Throughout the day the young man thought of the proclamation he had presented to G-d and still felt strongly about it.
 The news traveled fast that the Chafetz Chaim was miraculously getting better  and chances of him making a full recovery was great. Sometime later the Chafetz Chaim now at full strength met Mordechai Londensky.” I thank G-d that the Rebbi is feeling better” Mordechai said. The Chafetz Chaim looked him in the eyes and said “I know what you did for me Mordechai and I want to thank you for the five years”. Mordechai was floored. He hadn’t told anyone about his conversation with G-d. The Chafetz Chaim then proclaimed.  “I am giving you a blessing that you will live a little longer then I am right now”
 …Five years later the Chafetz Chaim past away…
  Rabbi Mordechai Londinski passed away at the age of eighty nine. It was just like the Chafetz Chaim had promised “you will live a little longer then I am now”. His funeral, though, was delayed for a day for his beloved son Moshe who was in California had to arrive. Usually, the burial has to take place within twenty four hours. Rabbi Kaminetski gave the unusual HETTER-“permission” to delay.  Rabbi Moshe Londinski arrived and eulogized his father where he revealed this story. He said “besides my father, I and Chafetz Chaim no one knew this story until today” Rav Kaminetski said “it’s with the help of G-d that I made my decision to delay. Now I know why”.
 Rabbi Mordechai Londinski made the extra effort to make the miracle happen, the miracle of life.
Many people have gone to the Baba Sali for brachot – blessings. One particular individual was seeking a bracha – blessing to have children. It was medically impossible for him and his wife to conceive. However, the man was determined to make every effort to make this impossible dream possible. There were usually long lines and people waiting for hours to see the Rabbi and when they do see him it’s in passing, very brief – one or two word answers. However, many have sworn that his brachot come true. When it was finally this individual’s turn the Baba Sali looked at the letter that was presented to him with the request “Children!” to which he replied “lost case”, next… person on line. The individual though broken came the next day again to be in line for a blessing, after his turn came, he again gave in his request “Children!”, and the answer was… “lost case”, next…, the next day he was there again with the same request and the same answer followed “lost case”. He kept coming to Rav Baba Sali every single day for the next 200 days to bless him to have kids and always received the same answer…Then the secretary of the Rav Baba Sali finally told the Rav “why don’t you tell him to stop coming already”, the Rav told the petitioner “you come every day with the same request and I gave you an answer already, may be you should stop coming”. The petitioner said “I know your prayers work, G-d listens to you; you are the only one in this world who can help me”. “Do you really believe in it?” asked the Rav, “then go right now and buy a baby carriage”. The man left ecstatic “I received the blessing!”, “I received the blessing!” He went and brought a new baby carriage to his wife at home. Nine months later he had a baby!
 People like this refuse to be discouraged by those who advise them that their goals are impossible to attain. 
We often hear such an individual being praised for “accomplishing the impossible,” almost as if he pulled off something supernatural, against the natural order. The truth is that the person may have indeed gone far beyond the norm in dedication, sacrifice and commitment.

But that is not what brought them success. They tasted success only because G-d’s hand enabled them to do so, or else it truly would have been impossible to achieve what they did.

Anyone who walks this earth with his eyes open is aware of the hand of G-d that touches us every moment of our lives. We see Siyata Di’Shmaya – Divine Protection – constantly. We work hard to accomplish our goal and then G-d takes over.

Every person was created to carry out a mission in life. Those who succeed are the ones who don’t let anything deter them for long. With faith in the One Above, they ignore the difficulties that would throw off lesser men. They continue their effort with the knowledge that G-d will assist them and take over for them at the proper time.

The final verdict is Hoshana Rabba, after we experience Succot. G-d watches how we would react sitting in the glorious but weather related Succah. It’s a time to ask, to pray, and to go beyond the norm.
We learn a very interesting and valuable lesson in similar vein from mikvah.  If someone is spiritually impure – tameh and touches the water, the water becomes impure. It’s powerful – the way Humans can transmit tumah – spiritual impurity. However, if a person immerses himself in a kosher mikvah, then not only is that the mikvah does not fall to impurity, but on the contrary – it makes the person tahor – pure. As long as the person does not have any chatzitza – any object on his body that will be considered a separation, for the idea is to be totally embodied/immersed within the mikvah parameters. He is part and parcel with the mikvah and with that power becomes pure. The Mitzvah of Succah is similar: in order to perform it – one has to be totally in the parameters (the entire body of the person inside the sukkah), just like Mikvah changes one’s status so does Succah, the power of Succah has the ability to make one Kadosh. The power of Succah has the power to make miracles; however, we need siyata di’shmaya and participation from ourselves. We build it, we beautify it, we do our part of participation and G-d does the rest.